Mark Foster / Copywriter

Beech Avenue
An exhibition celebrating the life of the Beech Avenue, Kingston Lacy.

Did you drive down the Beech Avenue on your way here? If so, you will appreciate why it is recognised as one of the most striking and atmospheric views in Dorset. This exhibition aims to celebrate its uniqueness and historical importance – at a time when the existing trees in the avenue are coming towards the end of their natural life.

As work begins to replace dying trees and to maintain others, the National Trust offers you a glimpse into the past and the future of the Beech Avenue. Our special celebration uses sight, sound and touch to explain the importance of this dramatic landmark. By immersing yourself in this multi-sensory experience, you can conjure up the feeling of travelling under the gnarled branches themselves.

Planted by ‘the father of all mischief’.
The two and half mile long Beech Avenue was planted in 1835 by the owner of Kingston Lacy, the explorer and aristrocrat William John Bankes. This extraordinary character led a full and incident-packed life. He was a good friend of Lord Byron who referred to him as ‘the father of all mischief’.

The trees and newly built toll road were said to be an extravagant gift from William to his mother, Frances. Originally there were 365 trees on one side and 366 on the other – one for every day of the year and the other for every day of a leap year. When built, the avenue led to the entrance of Kingston Lacy from the Blandford direction.

In 1837 William wrote to his brother George about dining with the Duke of Wellington in London. He remarked upon catching the Exeter Mail at Apsley House and chose “the Blandford Post that I might see my whole avenue”. This is his only known reference to the Beech Avenue.

Enriching the local community.
For those living close to the Beech Avenue, it has been a source of local stories and helped shape the area’s cultural identity. Photographers and artists have found inspiration in its tunnelled canopy, and many a child has grown up knowing it as a magical place.

We have gathered together these memories and experiences for you to share in our sound booth and in a variety of images. Listening to these reminiscences and viewing the pictures will help you understand just what an impact the Beech Avenue has had on people’s lives. And how it will always live on in local memory.